The coronavirus pandemic has forced many localities across the globe to declare quarantines and lockdowns. Due to these restrictions to physical activity, users are now turning to digital services for entertainment and work from home setups. Streaming services and gaming platforms have seen major upticks in traffic because more people really are stuck at home.
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Unfortunately, many publishers and streaming providers segment their offerings and only make certain content available to users from a particular geographic region. Streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, for instance, make available different program lineups depending on a user’s location.
Those looking for more diverse content can circumvent these geo-restrictions by using a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN can make a user in Italy appear to be located in the US. Consumer-grade services have also made using the technology easy. A provider would often have a VPN extension for browsers like Chrome and Firefox available or a VPN mobile app that can instantly enable the service with a single click or tap of a button.
Interest in VPN has been increasing since the outbreak as reflected by the rise in the use of the term Google Trends. Users in Italy, who are currently under a national quarantine, are actively searching for VPN providers. The US, which is expected to put areas under quarantine, is also expected to increase its VPN use by 150 percent in the near future.
Increasing digital consumption
Governments all over the world are now scrambling to limit people’s mobility through lockdowns in hopes of limiting the spread of the virus. With people confined in their homes, there has been a sharp increase in internet bandwidth use connecting to digital entertainment services. In the US, gaming (75 percent), VPN (34 percent), and video streaming (12 percent) are all up during peak hour usage amid the outbreak.
Streaming services are also looking to capitalize on the situation. Disney+ recently added blockbuster movies to its lineup earlier than intended. Upcoming movies like Trolls World Tour will also skip theater releases and will be available in on-demand services alongside other NBCUniversal releases. Others, including adult sites, are offering free access to their services.
Gaming platforms are also enjoying a surge in usage. Steam recently hit all-time high in concurrent usage with 20 million users logged on to the service at the same time. Blizzard servers experienced outages due to surges in login attempts. Some ISPs are also warning against bandwidth-hogging activities as users spend more time streaming and torrenting.
Many of the streaming services, however, implement some form of geo-restrictions, and users around the world looking to access these content would have to find ways to circumvent these restrictions. Viewers of adult entertainment will also find it helpful to have their browsing histories kept private. VPNs can help in this regard.
VPNs prove useful
VPNs work by extending a private network over the public internet. A user accesses the public internet using a secure private network connection which encrypts all data being sent and received, allowing the user to browse the web privately.
Conventionally, VPNs are used as an added security measure when connecting using potentially unsecured networks, such as public hotspots, so that the data that passes through won’t be intercepted or stolen. They are also used to hide browsing histories from trackers that log search histories and other information tied to IP addresses.
Most streaming services use IP addresses to determine a user’s location. If a user is connecting using an IP address in Chicago, it automatically provides content meant for US audiences. VPN services can allow users to choose which server locations they want to use.
A user who is really located in Italy or the UK can simply connect to a streaming service using the VPN provider’s US server. The service would then automatically detect that the user is connected using a US IP address and show the corresponding content for the US region.
Making the most of the situation
Health officials expect that the peaks of the outbreak are still in the offing for many countries. Social distancing and work from home arrangements will be the new normal for the time being. Streaming services and other forms of digital entertainment will undoubtedly be patronized by those affected. Tools such as VPNs would at least help users access a wider range of digital content.